The role of predators in managing time

There are two extremes of grazing animal behaviour, and neither is dependent on herd or flock size, but on stock density.  At low densities per hectare or acre, animals are able to remain on a piece of land for a long time.  At high densities per hectare or acre, animals can only remain on a piece of land a short while.  For example, assume there were sufficient feed per hectare (acre) on hand to feed 100 animals.  That feed could feasibly be removed by one animal held on that piece of land for 100 days, or 100 animals held on the land for just one day.  Either way, the same volume of feed is removed, but the effect on the landscape is vastly different.

In brittle tending environments that are functioning naturally, grazing animals have always been held tightly bunched together because of the presence of pack hunting predators.  This meant they could not remain long on a piece of land before exhausting the local feed, and must soon move on to fresh land and feed.

Humans have interfered with this behaviour for many practical reasons, such as choosing ‘this bull must go with those cows’, or ‘that ram goes with those ewes’.  The common outcome is that people hold relatively small mobs of animals on a piece of land at low stock densities for long periods, overgrazing many plants.

Holistic grazing planning mimics natural function by encouraging managers to hold fewer, larger mobs of animals on a piece of land at the highest practical stock density for the shortest time possible, whilst always matching speed of animal moves to the real life variable recovery periods required by the plants.  This way, overgrazing is minimised or eliminated, and feed yield is maximised.


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